The clever chaps at Fabric have widened their offering for 2017, diversified their portfolio and spread their net to encompass more product categories such as lights and pumps alongside a broadened range of tools, saddles and handlebar grips.
At Hauser and Wirth, a suitably stylish venue, close to the Frome, Somerset, base of Fabric and its sister brand Charge, head honcho Nick Larsen introduced the new products with a bold pledge that Fabric’s offerings would be superior to those of their rivals.
“If we don’t create a product that’s better than every competitor, we don’t go to market," he said.
Fabric’s first women’s saddle, its first Tri saddle, and an elegantly modern update on the wooden handled frame pumps of yore are among the highlights of a new collection.
Despite the model year 2017 tag, Fabric is likely to beat most of its competitors to market with items for the industry’s new season. Everything except the new ‘inflation’ range will be available in August (the pumps will follow in October).
An entry into the lights market represents new ground for Fabric. Five lamps, all with USB charging and intuitive dial controls, offer a range of illumination that peaks at 500 lumens, making them best-suited to the commuter market.
The FL30 rear light includes an accelerometer, which increases the intensity of the beam as you slow down: think of it as a cyclist’s brake light. There’s a front light version too, with a white LED. Burn times are identical: four hours on flash, and two hours on constant. It also comes with its own silicone, tool-free mount, allowing you to lock the light into various positions. Yours for £27.99.
The FL150, meanwhile, is a neat (20mm x 77mm), aluminium-bodied unit with a CREE LED up front and a row of additional LEDs in red along the body, which can be twisted in its mount to a vertical position and used as rear light to get home safely: the body lights use only one third of the power of the main beam.
It charges from a standard-sized USB attachment, which product manager Chris McCardle says has been specifically designed to slot into a MacBook Pro, without additional propping at unusual angles.
The high beam burns for two hours, and the low for five hours. Flashing mode burns for eight hours. Switch to the body lights for an emergency rear light and burn times increase to 15 hours for constant and 24 hours for flashing. It costs £36.99.
Onto the FL300, it offers the same additional row of LEDs along the body as its smaller sibling, but, as the name suggests, offers a brighter main beam. It charges from a micro USB too, protected by a neat, rubber cover – the subject of some development time, according to McCardle – and so requires no more than two presses to seat it in the light’s aluminium body. It shares the dual functionality of the FL150 and has the same burn times. It comes with its own, highly adjustable silicone mount and costs £44.99.
Longer and significantly broader, the FL500 tops Fabric’s debut light range. That said, it’s only the main beam that outperforms its siblings. Burn times are the same as the FL150 and FL300. McCardle said it would cost £54.99.
Functionality is the most important aspect of a pump, and good looks are a bonus. Fabric are confident that they’ve struck the right balance with a new range designed to compete with market leaders Lezyne and Topeak, each boasting an aluminium body and a so-called ‘smart’ head, mounted to an extendable hose and equipped with dual valve compatibility (Presta and Schrader).
The range opens with the R150, which inflates to 120psi: impressive heft for a pump measuring just 175mm and accurately billed as “compact". Price is £24.99. Another £5 gets you a slightly longer barrel (235mm), and so greater volume. In all other regards, the R200 is the same as its smaller sibling.
By far the most stylish of an elegant selection, however, is the Z250: a modern take on the long-barreled frame pump. The wooden handle lends it a certain status, and complements the aluminium barrel surprisingly well. A braided hose with a neatly integrated dual valve chuck completes the picture. It doesn’t have quite the same capacity as a track pump (90psi maximum, rather than 120psi) but is infinitely more stylish - and portable, all for £39.99.
The TP01 and TP02 track pumps are more typical. Tall, with a T-handle, footplate, and large, easy-to-read gauge, they offer a high-volume solution to the chore of tyre inflation and higher pressures than their more portable siblings. The rubber hose on both models is billed as ‘extra long’, allowing you to inflate tyres while your steed remains hung in the workstand. Priced at £44.99 and £69.99, with the additional investment gaining you a wooden handle and wooden inlay in the base.
Finally, there’s a CO2 canister and tyre lever kit, neatly combined with a dual valve head and two silicone bands. Easily mounted to your seatpost, it’s a simple, stylish solution for those who hanker for a more portable solution even than a mini pump. It costs £19.99.
Fabric dipped a toe into the multi-tool market last year with its smooth and stylish Chamber: a silver, alloy cylinder, less than 10cm long, containing six, short metal bars, tipped variously with Torx, Allen and screwdriver blades (cross and flat), offering 13 functions in all – as featured in the RCUK 100. Three new multi-tools and a chain splitter have been added to the range for MY2017, though the entry-level Six Tool will not be available in the UK.
The Eight Tool, with its - you guessed it - eight-implement range of Allen and Torx heads, and flat-bladed screwdriver, will cost £17.99. The more sophisticated, CNC-machined Sixteen Tool, which includes a chain splitter, spoke keys, and bottle opener, as well as a wider range of Allen and Torx heads, will cost £21.99.
Fabric’s emphasis on ergonomics is most apparent in the Chain Tool (£17.99), whose smooth and rounded handle isn’t wildly dissimilar to the Chamber tool. It’s versatile too: suitable for use with 8, 9, 10 and 11-speed chains.
Fabric is best known as a saddle brand and makes the proud claim that it has never lost a head-to-head test.
The beguiling ALM remains the flagship - a design in which carbon base and rail are moulded as a single, elegant structure - and for the new season has a cover change to match the Scoop range. Bases are painted and there’s a rather chi chi version in all white.
The women’s specific Gel saddle, however, is the most significant addition to the range. Its larger gel pads at the contact points are plainly visible beneath the cover. At 155mm, it is significantly broader than its Scoop siblings, and some 20mm shorter, too. Product manager Logan Argent revealed that there are plans afoot to expand the women’s range with a 142mm version next year. It costs £44.99.
A second new model can be found in the Tri saddle: a perch with striking looks, like most of its breed, and a pronounced centre channel, with a removable bottle holder mounted on the rear. Short and stubby to suit the forward position of those effectively engaged in a time-trial, Fabric claims superiority in weight and price for the carbon-railed flagship over competitors from heavyweight brand. It’s available with a chromoly rail (£49.99), a Ti rail (£69.99) or a carbon rail (£119.99).
With the notable exception of the ALM saddle, no product quite captures Fabric’s readiness to innovate and to challenge industry convention than their cageless bottle. Similar systems have been tried in the past, but with two mounting grommets and a groove moulded into the underside of the bottle, Fabric’s solution is arguably the simplest.
For 2017, the offering has been expanded to include a tool keg (£12.99) and an insulated bottle (£15.99). The standard bottle is now available in 600ml (£9.99) and 750ml (£12.99). Price is a central plank of Fabric’s pitch for its cageless bottle. No other bottle and cage combo is likely to come close.